x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Costa del Crisis for Spain's property sector

The fate of Spain's economy is tied to thousands of unsold second homes - with video.

The fate of Spain's economy rests in a large part on thousands of empty villas on the sun-splashed Mediterranean coast.

Struggling Spanish banks control more than €100 billion (Dh525 bn) in distressed property assets after the collapse of the country's housing market, analysts estimate.

Most are second homes in developments built during a 10-year construction boom targeting the same European buyers and investors coveted by Dubai and other markets.

The banks are now effectively the biggest estate agents in the country, with more than 100,000 repossessed properties on the market.

But selling those homes will not be easy. There are anywhere from 700,000 to a million empty apartments and villas in Spain, the majority of them in coastal areas.

"Banks will take years to clear [property] off their books," said Arturo de Frias, an analyst with Evolution Securities. "I think the big question is what is going to happen to real estate prices."

Home prices in the fourth largest economy in the euro zone have fallen 17 per cent since the market peaked in 2008, according to government data. But most analysts say the plunge have been much steeper, particularly in resort areas, where prices are down as much as 50 to 60 per cent.

Prices are likely to continue to fall anywhere from 5 to 10 per cent in the next year, especially with more distressed and repossessed properties entering the market, analysts say.

To help sell their villas and apartments, banks have started offering potential buyers the type of lending terms that have not been seen since the boom era. Loans covering 100 per cent of the purchase price are available on some repossessed properties, with repayment of up to 40 years.

But the loan offers typically apply only to the bank's own repossessed property, not homes available in the general market.

"It is a cause for uproar among developers, who claim unfair competition," said Mark Stucklin of SpanishPropertyInsight.com, which tracks the market.

Last month the Spanish government embarked on a tour of Europe to promote Spanish homes, the first large-scale marketing effort since the sector collapsed three years ago.